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Showing posts from 2020

Falu Rödfärg

Falu Rödfärg- Swedish red paint, made of flour, linseed oil, and iron oxide. From the very beginning, I dreamed of this red colour for the walls of the Carabane. Getting the paint proved to be a difficult mission, since I had it delivered to a friend's place in France just before the borders closed due to the epidemic. To bring it back, I crossed into France at an unguarded gravel road border with my bike, biked the last 4km, put the 25kg of paint into my backpack and then biked back into Switzerland! It felt very adventurous.

I was very happy to put the wood cladding up. The Carabane had stayed too long with just a rainscreen.

Here's how I made the boards fit the curve of the roof. I tried different techniques but this one gave the most satisfactory result.

1. Trace the outline of the roof on the back of the board
 2. Offset the trace by 2 cm (because I wanted a 2cm ventilation gap between the roof and the boards)

3. Score with a knife (to reduce splintering on the top surfa…


It pays to have a design and to stick to it. Way back in January, I had started the kitchen. I found the stainless-steel countertop second-hand. The carpenter who was selling it offered to cut it for me. So I had the countertop before any other part of the house!  And I also started building the kitchen cabinets before I even started the walls of the caravan.

And then, beginning of April, I brought the assembly inside...and it fit. To the millimetre. That's one thing I am pretty proud of. That means that my construction is conform to the plans I drew...

The countertop came with the old plumbing and faucet. I was able to hook up the old faucet to a foot pump that is connected to a 25l jug. That's my water supply. I thought it would be complicated to make the different pipes fit together, but it turns out I just needed to slide one onto the other:

The drain is routed out through the floor of the caravan. I'm going to use a planter as a filter for the washing water.

Next was …

Interiors 1

The first step to making the Carabane liveable: put in a bed! I had picked up a slatted bed base for free, second-hand (and hauled it back on the train!). I want there to be room for storage under the bed, so the idea was to attach the bed base on hinges.
It was a bit complicated to figure out how to attach the hinges and in which order (first to the bed base? or first to the wall?). It involved crawling around under the bed trying to reach for drills and screws. I was very happy to be finished!
Next, there was the skylight to insulate and frame:
And next, the wardrobe. I worked on making invisible shelf attachments. I wanted a system with a groove in the shelf that I could slide onto a rail. I thought I could make a groove that was 7mm deep and then slide it onto a piece of 7mm plywood that I screw into the wall. But 7mm plywood splits way too easily. Driving screws through it made the rail very fragile. You can see in the bottom right corner that the plywood is splitting because of …

Hello, world.


When I was deciding what to use on the roof of the Carabane, I quickly arrived at the conclusion that corrugated aluminum panels would be best. For multiple reasons:
-They are light (3kg/m2)
-I preferred using large panels over small elements such as tiles, because I would need to anchor each tile individually. I felt that large panels was a more secure option.
-They are pretty much foolproof in terms of rainwater shedding, as long as you overlap them properly.
-I can use screws to anchor them directly into strapping- no hooks or special anchors needed
-I could order them pre-curved with the radius I needed.

The manufacturer had certain requirements for the curving radius and the minimum/maximum length of panels. So after a few back-and-forth e-mails with the technician, I came up with my order:

The width of the panels was fixed at 1m6, with a corrugation every 7.6cm. I adjusted my design so that the roof would be a whole number of corrugations, so I wouldn't end up with one edge …


According to the manufacturer of the wood fibre sheathing, the boards could act as a wind and waterproof layer. But a couple of issues made me question that idea. First of all, I wondered how I could make the connection between the sheathing and the windows. I asked for a tape that would stick to the sheathing, but the building supplier couldn't find me one. Also, because I made lots of cuts into the sheathing in order for it to go around the curve, it was definitely not meeting the manufacturer's specifications for wind and water tightness.

So, I decided to play it safe and install a housewrap-type membrane. It's pretty straightforward to install- roll it out over the roof and walls, staple sparingly, and tape the joints. There was just a bit of complicated tapework to make it go around the curves.


The past couple weeks I have been working on insulating+paneling the interior, and this step is finally finished! I'm using 12mm pine plywood as a finish. I also routed out tongues-and-grooves on the panels so that they would always sit flush with one another.

A big challenge of this phase was to make the curved parts of the roof. I had to make hundreds of saw cuts to be able to bend the panel to shape.

I also added reinforcing ribs so that the curve would stay in place.

After that, there was the question of how to get the panel onto the ceiling! I had help, but one extra pair of hands wasn't enough to hold the panel in place and get it fastened. It was too heavy and was warping in all directions. I ended up making a kind of formwork that could hold the panel in place temporarily as I put the screws in.

 Overall, I am pretty happy with how the joints line up. Of course, if I look closely, they aren't all exactly 2mm, but the overall effect is what I wanted: a uniform plyw…

Mini Windows

I tried to look for building materials second-hand. And I found an ad for these mini windows. I think they were showroom examples before, because they had handles attached to the top. This was convenient as I went to pick them up using public transport and I had to haul them back on the bus and train!

They are triple-glazed, tilt-and-turn wood+metal windows. A steal for 50 francs apiece!

Here's my version of window installation: 1) get it level in the opening using shims. Peel back the rubber joint and screw through the wood frame into the structure.

2) Tape around the exterior frame using weatherproofing tape.

3) Add sheathing board around the edge (for extra insulation)

4) Stuff cracks with wool (I vowed that I wouldn't use spray foam on this project...meaning I spend time stuffing wool into gaps)

Now it just needs some interior and exterior cladding!

BAAtts (continued)

If you haven't already noticed, I am fascinated with the transformations that turn raw materials into architecture. I like to go back to the source of things- whether it's brick, plywood, or concrete. So I said yes straight away when the sales agent of Fiwo suggested I visit the factory to see how wool is turned into insulation batts.

Fiwo is a Swiss not-for-profit company that was originally founded to re-insert people in social difficulty into the workforce. It also developed out of the realisation that wool is a waste product in Switzerland, and two-thirds of the wool production was being burned. The founder saw the opportunity to recover a valuable material that has many useful properties, as well as help out the sheep farmers by paying for a substance they would have had to pay to dispose of.

The wool is first sorted by hand, to remove impurities and to sort by colour. Apparently, black wool fibres are coarser than white ones, which can be problematic during the felting …